Monday, 1 August 2022
I've always made it my practice to begin my first speech in every new parliament by giving thanks to the people who have put their trust in me to represent them in this place. Thank you to my constituents in Melbourne's west. Representing you in this place is the greatest honour of my life, and I'll continue to work hard each and every day to try and live up to it, and to build a better future for you and your families.
Thank you, too, to the Labor activists who helped us win the campaign in Gellibrand in this election. I've never taken the support of my constituents for granted, and we campaign hard every election to return a Labor member to this House. Thank you to the Labor activists who gave countless hours to the cause to help re-elect me and the long-awaited Albanese Labor government.
Hundreds of volunteers contributed to our campaign, and I am thankful to each and every one of them. A few special thanks, though. To the indefatigable Alison, thank you for your enormous contribution nearly every day of pre-poll and on polling day and for filling in on all of the roster shifts when someone wasn't available, which in COVID times was not a few times. Bill, thank you for covering the Truganina pre-poll and for making the commute all the way from Altona—past the Altona pre-poll—to get there.
Thank you to Terry, Gary, Matt, Mita, Brenda, Greg, Gavin, Effie, Janet, Trish and Dean for putting in hundreds of hours into the campaign, collectively. Thank you to all of those who joined me in pre-poll: Linelle, Janet, Marcelle, Joan, Eerik, Michael, Catherine, Pritam, William, Paul, Karen, Scott, John, Julie, Clovis, Martine, Louise and Liam—thank you all. Campaigning is hard, and campaigning during Melbourne's winter is even harder still, so thank you for braving the cold and the mud of the Altona Finnish Society, the windswept car parks of Truganina and the bustle of Point Cook town centre.
Thank you to all the polling day booth captains: Kemal, Chris, Caelan, Gary, Matthew, Monica, Jock, Brenda, Cornelius, Trish, Paddy, Ann, Lance, Stan, Bill, Alison, Mat, Effie, Jebesh, Scott, Robin, Nathan, Brett, Kate, Eloise, Cindy, Oliver and Sienna. Thank you to all of the scrutineers, who stayed behind after what was already a long day—though I suspect arriving just in time to hear the election results from Western Australia probably made it worthwhile.
Thank you lastly to my staff: Finn, Sienna, Henry, Steve, Andrew, Walt and Kieran. It's been a hard term. Thank you. I couldn't have survived it without you. Thank you also to all of my staff who've worked with me during nine long years of opposition but weren't working in my office in time to see the promised land. There have been a lot of people, but thank you in particular to the long termers: Raymond, Lara, Heather, Cesar, Diane, Ben and Fiona. You're all true believers who made a big contribution to this government along the way. Finally, thank you to Clara Jordan-Baird. I know how much you would have loved the last couple of months, and I've been missing you particularly as a result. We'll hold your memory close as we begin delivering on the causes that you worked so hard for in your life.
In the Albanese Labor government we aren't wasting a moment. The election came at a critical time in our nation's history, when the challenges facing our nation have been growing more rapidly than ever before. Australia was adrift under the previous government. We saw nine years of economic policy stagnation, nine years of climate change inaction, nine years of neglect bordering on sabotage of the levers of our influence around the world. It was a decade of drift. After nine years those opposite left Australia with $1 trillion in liberal debt and far too little to show for it, and no plan for the future. I am proud to be a member of the Albanese Labor government, that doesn't only have a plan for a better future but hasn't missed a moment in getting to work on it. We've already secured an increase in the minimum wage. We promised it; we delivered it. We've introduced legislation to enshrine our climate change commitments into law, to fix the aged-care crisis and to create universal paid leave for family and domestic violence, a cause that members on this side of the House have been campaigning for for many years.
Unfortunately, the problems left to us by the previous government can't be fixed overnight, but we're getting on with the job. There's been a bit of a dynamic across the government as new ministers settle into their new roles, get behind the desks and look down into the bottom drawer. Again and again, my colleagues are finding that those opposite simply gave up on governing long before the last election. Whether it's visas, share registers or healthcare funding, they were in power but they were checked out, obsessed with their own internal conflicts and culture wars instead of the job that Australians elected them to do.
In my own position, I'm deeply grateful that the Prime Minister has chosen to appoint me as the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs. After I was sworn in, I looked in my in-tray and saw for myself the mess left behind by the previous government in the Australian Passport Office—an issue that will be familiar to every member in this House. A massive backlog of passport applications exists, many delayed by weeks. Phones are jammed with Australian seeking an update. Queues are wrapped around whole city blocks, full of Australians anxious about their family reunions and long-awaited international holidays being wrecked by the previous government's mismanagement.
Two million Australians allowed their passports to expire during the pandemic without renewing them. Yet the Morrison government made no attempt to smooth the entirely predictable surge in demand for renewal applications that was to come when international travel resumed, or to prepare the resources in the Public Service that would be needed to deal with them when they came.
They weren't doing the basics of government, and Australian travellers were left to pay the price. They paid the price in that terrible anxiety, worrying about family holidays being cancelled when one member of the family is still waiting on a passport application to be approved. And countless hours were wasted in frustration in overlong telephone queues, and in queues running around the block from passport offices.
I'm pleased to have been able to take quick action with the foreign minister to begin addressing this problem. Since the election, we have doubled the number of staff in the Australian Passport Office from roughly 730 to around 1,400. The queues at passport offices have all but vanished, and the call waiting times are down to just a couple of minutes now. We're still dealing with the backlog, but by the end of next month we hope to have returned to normal passport processing times, and to have restored the high-quality passport services Australians appreciate.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the staff from the Australian Passport Office and the wider Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade who have pitched in across the organisation to help fix this mess, including—I noted some commentary on Twitter—the 2022 DFAT graduate class. These public servants, in the passport office in particular, went above and beyond, working very long hours and staying hours after the end of their shift to meet this surging demand amidst enormous public frustration and media scrutiny. Thank you to all of you for going above and beyond in doing your job.
The challenges that we faced in the Australian Passport Office struck me particularly acutely in the foreign affairs portfolio because the ability to travel, to connect and to engage overseas is part of who we are as Australians. The Australian people are deeply connected with the world around us, and this matters to our broader foreign policy. As Minister Wong has underlined: 'Our foreign policy is an expression of our values, our interests and our identity. It starts with who we are.'
Our foreign policy objective in this term of government, as it should be for every government, is to grow Australia's power and influence around the world. As the ferocious travel schedule of our new foreign minister, our defence minister and our Prime Minister has already demonstrated, we intend to do this with new energy and increased resources.
But we're also taking a new approach. One of the ways that we'll maximise our influence is by highlighting the common ground of modern Australia with the world around us. We're a nation where more than half of our population was born overseas or has a parent born overseas. We're a nation of more than 300 ethnic heritages. My electorate in Melbourne's west is representative of this. Two-thirds of my constituents were born overseas or have a parent born overseas. That's true of my family as well, where two-thirds of my immediate family were either born overseas or have a parent born overseas. In fact, it might be 75 per cent. There isn't a country on earth that isn't connected to modern multicultural Australia, and we intend to leverage this to maximise our influence. There's not a country in the world that we can't reach out to and draw on commonality, on a shared interest.
We're also a nation who proudly celebrates our First Nations peoples, the oldest continuing culture in the world. You saw some of that celebration in the very moving condolence motions for Archie Roach that the chamber has just heard today. We'll draw on this heritage to develop an Indigenous foreign policy, weaving First Nations voices and practices into the way that we talk to the world and into the work of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This new approach is already creating new bonds and common interests around the world, particularly with our Pacific family, from whom we have a lot to learn on this front.
We saw modern Australia this week in this place. I've often commented that Australia is one of the most successful multicultural nations in the world, but we have monocultural institutions of power. This week has seen a slight break—progress made in changing that unacceptable reality. Half of the new members of the Albanese Labor government have either a multicultural heritage or are Indigenous Australians. This parliament welcomes new members and senators with cultural heritages from Laos, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Malaysia and Vietnam, along with more Indigenous representatives than ever before. As I've sat and listened to their first speeches, it's made me proud to be Australian, proud to be Labor and proud to represent this country internationally.
As the member for Reid, a new member of Chinese-Laotian heritage, noted in her first speech, the House of Representatives 'is starting to live up to its name,' because 'representatives that embody all of the Australian story make our parliament better and our democracy stronger.' Senator Stewart took this further in her first speech, welcoming this new diversity but emphasising, 'Now we need to move beyond just looking like the country we're here to represent and add some colour to our words and our actions.' Just today, the new member for Higgins further explored this theme, noting that one of the great unaccounted for strengths of this country, one of our great assets, is our social cohesion in the context of this diversity, which is an enormous source of social capital that can be drawn on by governments, by business and by community members as a whole. And I am particularly proud that while these speeches celebrated the emerging modern Australia they didn't deny the difficult path that we have travelled as a nation to get here. The member for Swan, a new MP of Goan Indian heritage by way of Kenya and Kalgoorlie—find me a more Australian than that—told the House in her first speech about her family story of an initial rejection from the Australian Embassy in Kenya when they applied to migrate to this country, first being told, 'You have the right skills but you are the wrong colour,' only to be subsequently welcomed after Gough Whitlam dismantled the White Australia policy.
In their presence here and in their words, these MPs tell the true story of the greatness of our country. A failure to own who we once were opens a space to our adversaries to sow false narratives about who we are today. And those who seek to deny Australia's difficult history on race don't just lack credibility, they also deny our greatest strength as a nation, our greatest strength as a democratic nation, our ability to change and to grow as a people and as a nation. Who would deny in this chamber today that we are a not far greater nation today than we were when Edmund Barton was our first Prime Minister? We've outgrown them. We have transcended them. We have seen the error in our ways with the White Australia policy and we have built something so much better here today. We should tell this story and we should celebrate it. We can all be proud of the journey we have gone on.
Hearing these individual stories by these new members in this parliament, listening and reflecting in important venues like this chamber makes us stronger as a country and more influential overseas. Modern Australia is not an ethno-nationalist state. We need to actively build the bonds that tie us together as Australians, to bring together what Noel Pearson has called the three stories of modern Australia, the three stories that together make the one story of Australia: tens of thousands of years of continuing Indigenous heritage, our Westminster institutions and our thriving multicultural migration. You can't tell the story of Australia without telling those three stories. It is essential for nation building and vital for our international relations. We need to own our history, to celebrate our ability to change and grow, to be proud of our diversity and to use it all as a source of national strength. It is doubly important that we do so as we have some change and growth still to do. On this front, underlined by the task in front of this parliament to get on with the implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the First Nations Voice to parliament.
Finally, I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to someone who embodied the best of the Australian spirit. Associate Professor Joseph Epstein AM was a remarkable physician who made a contribution to my community in the western suburbs of Melbourne. Joe passed away on 20 June. Joe started working in Footscray in 1963 as a medical student and went on to spend 50 years as a surgeon at Footscray Hospital where he founded the emergency department—an emergency department frequented by my family and children quite regularly. Joe loved Melbourne's west, the people, the stories and their attitude to life, and Melbourne's west loved Joe, his compassion, his advocacy and his sheer determination to push for better health outcomes for all of us, including our community in Melbourne's west. His loss will be felt not only in our community but right across Australia, where his leadership in emergency management and public health will have an enduring legacy. He was a mentor to generations of doctors and nurses, advised ministers and bureaucrats, was a champion for equality and access to health care for all, particularly for First Australians. A 50-page 2016 tribute book to Joseph described him well, as 'a physician, surgeon, mentor, agent provocateur, philosopher, politician, photographic historian and raconteur', truly a life well lived. I offer my deepest condolences to Joe's family and friends, and to the emergency medical community in Australia, who continue to live out his legacy in my community on a daily basis. In particular I want to acknowledge Joe's wife, Jan, who was a constant source of love and support for him and who made all of his achievements possible. On that note, I have the great honour in preceding the first speech of my good friend the newly elected member for Hawke.
It is a great honour to stand here in this parliament, embedded beneath a grassy hill on the lands of the Ngunnawal and the Ngambri people, the traditional custodians of the Canberra area. I pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging. I also acknowledge the Wurundjeri and Wadawurrung people, who have for millennia been custodians of the earth, the trees, the water, the animals and the sky that now make up the electorate of Hawke. I extend my respects to the First Nations members of this parliament and to all First Nations members people here today.
The Uluru statement is a gracious offering, a road map towards reconciliation—voice, treaty, truth. If, like me, you believe in Australia and believe it to be the greatest country on this planet then we must have the courage to face history, find a shared truth and forge a future together with our Indigenous sisters and brothers, steeped in the confidence of justice. I thank and applaud the Prime Minister for his characteristic conviction and leadership on this most important matter.
I would not be here today but for two extraordinary women: my mum, Penelope, and my partner, Zoe. My mum is an educator, a unionist, a community activist and a matriarch. The sharpest of intellects, and with the strength of weathered granite, Mum devoted her professional life to public education. She lived her collectivist values every day and proselytised them as she weaponised education against structural disadvantage, inequity and misfortune in our community. Mum raised my younger brothers and I here in Canberra, in Tuggeranong, the deep southern suburbs, far from the civic splendour of the parliamentary precinct. She poured her love into us. She was the patient, omnipotent manifestation of security and protection, and occasionally the furious personification of consequence when circumstances demanded it.
My brothers, Joshua and Isaac, are testament to her parental artistry. They are men of integrity, of consideration, of humanity and of humour. With all my love and pride, I acknowledge them and their beautiful families: Josh, his partner, Silvie, and their son, Ernest, and Zac, his partner, Ella, and their children, Gene and Clement.
Mum, thank you for your unwavering, limitless love and for giving us absolutely everything you have to give. I love you very dearly.
The other seminal woman of my life is my partner in all things: Zoe Edwards. Zoe is my best friend, my confidante, the person I most admire. She is the smartest, funniest, most passionate, compassionate and inspiring being to grace this planet. She has devoted her own professional life to furthering the interests of working people, as an industrial lawyer, as a scholarly practitioner of public policy and as a proud trade unionist. Our life together is gloriously lit in chaotic technicolour by our beautiful children, Hunter, Banjo and the eagerly anticipated little sister in mum's tummy.
Hunny, Banji, little sister: I'm sorry for the inevitable sacrifices that we have chosen for you to make. Like all the other parents here, we make these sacrifices so that you and your generation can inherit a world that is kinder, stronger and more just. You are the sun and the stars and the very quiet space in between of our universe. Mum and I are so proud of you, and we love you with every atom of our beings. And Zoe: I lack the eloquence required to give lyrics to the music of our life together. I love you and I adore you. Thank you.
I also want to acknowledge the presence of Zoe's mum, Sarah, a fiercely loving mother and grandmother. Thank you for being here and for all that you do—and the absence of Zoe's dad, Scott, who passed away in 2015, a brilliant intellectual, a passionate Labor activist and a beloved friend of mine. He would have been elated by the election of this Albanese Labor government and had much to contribute in terms of unsolicited policy direction.
Bob Hawke has always been my political hero. His enthusiastic ambition for our great country was fuelled by his zealous belief in its exceptional potential—a belief that I share. He brought together disparate interests and ideologies. He gave our nation the confidence to face our region and the world, to make an impact far beyond our dry weight. And, it must be said, he had an exquisite head of hair. In humbly standing here as the inaugural member for Hawke, named for this great Prime Minister and patriot, I pay tribute to him and his legacy, to Blanche d'Alpuget and the extended Hawke family.
The electorate of Hawke is aptly named—encompassing places and people that I believe Bob would have been proud to be associated with. Stretching from Sunbury, Bulla and Diggers Rest in the north-east, we clinch Hillside on the outer edge of Melbourne suburbia. Heading west, Melton is the geographical heart of Hawke, before the Western Freeway drops down into the evocative agrarian valley where Bacchus Marsh lies at the convergence of the mighty Werribee and Lerderderg rivers. Further west again is the beautiful town of Ballan, where Zoe and I have chosen to raise our family. To the north is the goldrush town of Blackwood, surrounded by the wilderness of the Lerderderg and Wombat forests, and to the south, the Brisbane Ranges, straddled by the bucolic regions of Beremboke and Balliang.
Our communities are diverse. We have some of the fastest growing parts of Australia—Melton is on track to have a bigger population than Canberra by 2050—where the grazing and rock farms yield to new houses and new families, families buying their first homes, in many cases establishing themselves in Australia for the first time, in all, working hard to make a better life for themselves and their loved ones. These pioneers contribute richly to the social, cultural and economic fabric of our existing communities, and we welcome them.
But these enrichening changes also bring significant challenges. Population growth is putting our physical and social infrastructure under immense pressure. After a decade of wilful investment failure by those opposite, our roads and transport infrastructure are inadequate to service our communities, severely impacting our quality of life and, in some cases, our safety. Our primary healthcare system is collapsing. It takes weeks to see a GP. Our modest hospitals can't handle the increased demand and lack the capability to treat the complexity of conditions that come with population explosion and diversification, much less a global pandemic. We have great schools and dedicated teachers, but enrolments are rapidly increasing. We need better facilities, and our teachers need a federal government—this federal government—that will have their backs and value their toil. In all of Hawke we have no TAFE, no university, no public technical or trade apprenticeship school, no local education prospect beyond year 12 for our kids to aspire to. We need jobs—local, secure, well-paid jobs—and we need the economic investment to sustain those jobs perennially.
The people of Hawke are workers, and through that work they contribute to our society and they derive dignity. We are the teachers, the healthcare workers, the cleaners, the farmers, the drivers and the baggage handlers. We work in hospitality, child care, factories, construction and transport. During COVID the workers of Hawke kept our country moving, delivering medicines and vaccines, caring for our loved ones, maintaining our domestic supply chains and putting food on our tables. They paid a disproportionate cost for these contributions with their health and the health of their families.
Like the people I represent, I am a worker. When I first left school I worked as a labourer in a factory in Queanbeyan. I've washed dishes. I've cared for kids. I've answered phones in a call centre. I've advised on policy and campaigned for the things I believe in. I've been a partner at one of the biggest firms on the planet. I am equally proud of each of these contributions. From each I have learnt something of myself and the world. I've learnt how to fight for the things I believe in. I'm here to fight for the people and communities of Hawke and play a role in the fight for our national interests.
The electorate of Hawke was drawn from McEwen, Ballarat and Gorton. I want to acknowledge and thank my Labor colleagues Rob Mitchell, Catherine King and Brendan O'Connor for their support during the campaign and for previously representing our communities so admirably. While I get the great honour of standing in this place, Labor's victory in Hawke is due to the collective heroic efforts of Labor members, union comrades, community activists and friends.
I thank Brad Macpherson, Chantal and Brad Yates, Ryan Little, Ravinder Kaur, Derrick Simpson, Brad Stewart, Rhonda Edmonds, Daryl Baker, Tor Roxburgh, Barry Agg, Kylie Spencer, Nathan Miles, Jarrod Bell, Andrew and Shannon Gould, Russell Bell, Ed Abrehart, Jo Fox, Ben Davison, Ken Hardy, Ash Vandenberg, Lara Carli, Steve Abboushi, Carly Moore, Dut Athian, Beth Maplestone, Greg Fleming, Glenn Barfoot, Chris Wells, the great Andrew 'Tiny' McLean and so many more.
I specially acknowledge the wonderful people associated with the Khalsa Shaouni Sikh temple in Plumpton, especially my dear friends Gurdarshan, Avtar and Simar.
At the vanguard of our campaign was my campaign organising team: Nat Gonzalez, Cam Hine and Tal Pelach—all led by the brilliant Gabriella Dawson.
I am also grateful and humbled by the support I received from our sisters and brothers in the trade union movement: Michael Donovan and the SDA, Dylan Wight and the AMWU, and my friends at the ETU, ASU, RTBU and ANMF. I particularly want to acknowledge the mighty Transport Workers Union. I'm a proud member of the TWU and am ever grateful for the support and friendship of Secretary Mike McNess, former secretary John Berger, National Secretary Michael Kaine, National Assistant Secretary Nick McIntosh and all of the TWU organisers and members.
I especially want to acknowledge and thank my great friend Assistant Secretary Mehmet Suleyman. Mem has devoted his life to serving the members of our union, to fighting for their rights and their safety. I would not be here were it not for his friendship, encouragement and strategic nous. I am eternally pledged to our union's struggle for safe rates and better conditions for all transport workers.
As I find my feet in this new role I am very ably supported by the best of staff: Henry Fox, Di McAuliffe and Millie Page. I thank you for your wisdom, passion for our community and tolerance of me.
Throughout my various professional incarnations I've been so lucky to enjoy the mentorship of the superlative exemplars in each field: Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, a person who approaches politics, public policy and life with the deepest of consideration and intelligence; Senator Don Farrell, my first boss in politics, who, along with his wife, Nimfa, remains my benchmark of integrity and decency in our business; former senator Stephen Conroy, a person of such profound conviction, coupled with the courage and strategic brilliance to drive that conviction to impact; and James Mackenzie and Peter Konidaris, who have mastered the noble art of progressing the public good from the shimmering towers of the business sector. And in all matters of life there's my fraternal friendship with Philip Dalidakis—all the candour of his intellect and the generosity of his spirit.
There is a great presence missing from this House tonight, a mentor and a friend without whom I would not be here. Former senator Mehmet Tillem was a person of consequence. He was deeply principled, intelligent, full of humility and humour. He was a natural leader of people. He was inspiring and courageous. His generous friendship was protective and warm. He should have been here today, as he should have remained in the other place to continue his life's work in the pursuit of fairness for all people. But, sadly, he was lost to us far too young, just shy of three years ago. His wife, Ferda, and son, Mikhail, are here today, and I'm honoured by their presence. Mikki: your father was a great man who was respected and loved, and who I admired immensely. He loved you so very much, and he was so proud of you. You were the absolute centre of his universe. Thank you both for being here today.
It is not individual exceptionalism that has propelled me here, but rather the collective efforts and investments of so many special people. I have mentioned some already, but there are others who must be acknowledged for their talents and friendship, those who have watched upon the wall and laboured with me for our shared values: Ella George, Noah Carroll, Cal Viney, Tig Huggins, Bassel Tallal, Samuel Lynch, Emma Henderson, Jett Fogarty, Martha Haylett, Christopher Ford, Hakki and Natalie Suleyman, Chris Lovell, Steve Palmer, Kos Samaras, Alan Griffin, Ros Spence, the Palmer Street family, the comrades, the Memorial Ducks, the ANU foresters, the PwC crew and the MBS legends.
Thank you to the team at Victorian Labor and the ALP national secretariat for executing a brilliant campaign. Thank you to my Labor colleagues, friends whom I admire and am proud to count myself amongst. And thank you to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for your principled leadership and for reminding Australia that we are a compassionate, intelligent and ambitious nation.
As I have already said, I'm here to fight for the people of Hawke, and to stamp our values upon the national conversation. Fundamental to the issues we face as communities and the nation is the concept of prosperity. I don't speak of the false prosperity espoused by those opposite, measured only in financial wealth and its competitive accrual. I speak of the prosperity enjoyed by citizens who are both mentally and physically healthy, where we and our loved ones can access world-class health care as a matter of right. I speak of the prosperity of opportunity, provided and inspired by access to education, training, fulfilling employment and vocational pride; the prosperity generated by quality of life. I speak of the civic structures and infrastructure that facilitate our social and economic contributions, our moral and monetary reward, and the expedient return to the embrace of our families. I speak of the prosperity secured by valuing our environment and our planet, by making decisions based on sustainability and triple-bottom-line outcomes, for meaningful action on climate change that creates jobs and fuels our economy with cheap, clean renewable energy.
I joined the Labor Party because I believe that the role of government is to maximise prosperity, to grow the collective pie and to ensure it is apportioned according to our community's collective interests. This stands in stark contrast to the ideologies of the other parties, to the Left and to the Right, where too often the maximising of prosperity for the many is usurped by the constituency, cravenly clambering to secure the largest portion at the expense of the greater good.
The United Nations publishes the Human Development Index which measures and ranks all countries by whether people had the freedom and opportunity to live a life they value. In 2013, the year Labor lost office after fending off the global financial crisis, Australia was ranked second in the world on that index, behind only Norway. In 2019—the latest available report—Norway was still on top, but the years of coalition government had seen Australia drop to eighth place—a squandering of our prosperity. We now draw a line under this lost decade.
I'm proud to be a member of a government that will capitalise on the natural strengths of our country, address our shortcomings with constructive honesty and always be guided by our values. We will invest in a prosperous future, in health and education, for our children and theirs. We will face the historical injustices perpetrated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We will unlock Australia's true economic potential by investing in Australian industries, fuelling them with sovereign and renewable energy supplies and creating secure, well-paid jobs. In doing so, we will take real and sustainable action on climate change, in a way that empowers and rewards those who are most exposed and least privileged. We must rebalance the relationship between workers and employers, reform our broken bargaining system to ensure labour is properly priced and real wage rises are realised by working people. We are pursuing the most ambitious of programs and we have the energy, the passion and the capability to deliver real and lasting prosperity for our country and our communities. And then, in the dusk of day, when we have fought and delivered for the communities of Hawke, Australia and our region, I'll go home where I belong, with my family.
Congratulations to the member for Hawke for his maiden speech.
As we all stand in this place and look forward to the 47th Parliament, I want to thank the people of Forde for giving me the privilege and honour of once again representing them in federal parliament. I look back to when I was first elected, in 2010. It seems so long ago that I was first elected, and to now stand in this place at the start of my fifth term is a real privilege and honour. Many of my colleagues now haven't experienced life on this side of the House, but I find myself returning to the opposition benches, where I served in my first term. Sadly, many of my colleagues from the last parliament won't be returning to this place. I take this opportunity to acknowledge their outstanding contribution to the Liberal-National coalition and to their country.
As most people know, to be successful in a federal election campaign—or any election campaign, for that matter—requires an awful lot of support, help and assistance from a great variety of people. I want to take this opportunity to thank those people. I want to thank my colleagues—former Prime Minister Morrison, former minister Fletcher; former minister Stuart Robert, the member for Fadden; and former minister Colbeck—who came to my electorate during the campaign. And how could I ever forget Senator Cash's visit? In the middle of prepoll, at one of our many prepoll booths, we ended up buying her a set of gumboots because her footwear at that point was not appropriate for the conditions at prepoll! I'd like to thank my FDC executive and all the FDC members for their hard work.
The team in my office, led so ably by Jessica Howard, my chief of staff, include Alanah, Katie, Vanessa, Peter, Zane, Lynette, Bonnie, Nicholas, Roz and Vicki, a tremendous team that did an awful lot of work well over and above the call of duty. To all of the supporters, donors, volunteers who, for two weeks at prepoll, stood in the rain and mud and who helped so ably on polling day, also in the rain, wind and mud, who have supported me over many years over my five campaigns, thank you very much.
In particular, I want to take the opportunity to thank my family. After five successful election campaigns, my loving wife, Judi, and my two sons have been through a lot. With hand on heart I can admit that I could not do it without them, and they have my deep and heartfelt thanks. The six-week campaign for the 2022 election was one of the hardest I have been involved in, and the task was not made any easier by the seemingly constant cold and wet weather. As I said before, to all of the volunteers and those who stood in the mud to hand out how-to-vote cards at prepoll and at polling booths across the electorate, thank you so very much.
But as I look back, I am proud of what we as a government achieved over the last nine years. While it is disappointing to be on this side of the chamber, I look back with pride on what we have been delivering for our local community. At the end of the day, what is most important is that we are delivering results for our local community to make lives of everybody in our electorates better each and every day.
I represent a diverse area and one of the fastest-growing areas in Australia, the northern Gold Coast, which I share with the member for Fadden in the City of Logan, with the member for Rankin, the Treasurer, and also with the member for Wright, Deputy Speaker Buchholz. If I look at the growth in those communities since I first got elected in 2010, it is nothing short of extraordinary. Tens of thousands of people have moved into those communities over the last 12 years, and we see that now each and every day with the growth in the requirements of infrastructure right across the electorate. That is why I am pleased that I can stand here and say that, over the past nine years, the coalition government has delivered its share of the funding and has made those commitments for the upgrade of the M1 to the tune of $1.25 billion, from the Gateway to the Logan motorway. These projects are now well under way.
Deputy Speaker Buchholz has been an advocate for the $16 million upgrade to the Mount Lindesay Highway at North Mclean and now the $75 million duplication of the Mount Lindesay Highway from Stoney Camp Road to Chambers Flat Road. Deputy Speaker Buchholz well knows how important that piece of road is as a lifeline not only to the western part of the City of Logan but also to the Scenic Rim, and equally how important the M1 is as a lifeline and a major artery between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, providing access for those rapidly growing communities. Equally I am proud of the fact that as a coalition government we announced funding for the upgrade between Kuraby and Beenleigh to allow for fast rail, which will also include also upgrades to stations in my electorate at Loganlea, Bethania, Beenleigh and Eden's Landing. All of this will continue to serve these rapidly growing communities and provide alternative transport solutions to hopping in the car and going on the M1, particularly.
But it's not only these big infrastructure projects; it's also the smaller projects across the electorate, like providing funding for upgraded services both through the headspace at Meadowbrook and, importantly, a new headspace service in Upper Coomera, allied with the new Medicare funded MRI service in Upper Coomera, run by Qscan.
As I look at these achievements, I look back with pride at what we achieved over the last nine years in government. I disagree with those opposite—which I'm sure they're not surprised by—and I'm proud of the fact that, despite the level of debt we now have as a nation, over the past two years, through the largest pandemic this country has faced in 100 years, through the measures the former government took, we kept people in jobs, we kept small businesses' doors open and we kept our economy ticking over, to the extent that now we have one of the greatest economic outcomes coming out of COVID—although we're still dealing with COVID to this day—of any nation on the planet. I think we should be extraordinarily proud of that. There is nothing more important, from my perspective, than keeping a roof over somebody's head, helping them keep their business open and helping them keep their employees engaged and working in that business. There is nothing better than somebody having a job to go to each and every day.
I know that there are businesses—because I've met and spoken with them in my electorate—who haven't been successful in surviving the last 2½ years, and that's incredibly disappointing, because that impacts not only those business owners but their families and their friends and gives them a mental strain about what they're going to do for the future. But, by and large, the measures that the former government—the government that I was part of for the last nine years—put in place tremendous support to our economy at a very, very difficult time.
Another important aspect of our communities is our sporting clubs and community organisations. I have, like many of us in this place, many of those types of organisations across the community of Forde. I'm pleased to say that, again, the former government was successful in providing funding to those organisations to upgrade their facilities. As Deputy Speaker Buchholz would know—because it is the same with many of the sporting facilities in his part of the world—many of the sporting facilities in the city of Logan are well past their use by date and require upgrades. I'm pleased we were able to provide funding to Logan Lightning Football Club for the upgrade of Chris Green Park. It is a football club that I played for for a number of years. In its former life, as Beenleigh soccer club, it was where I started my senior footballing career. I played over 100 games for the club before I went on to play at a higher level. They have been successful this year in reaching the round of 32 for the Australia Cup, which is our version of the FA Cup. It's the first time in their history they've succeeded in that. That $600,000 investment built on another $350,000 investment a couple of years ago for their Cornubia Park facility.
I look at a club like Mustang Brothers Rugby League Football Club, a small club at Chambers Flat who do extraordinary work in their local community. We were successful in providing $150,000 in funding for them to upgrade their lights and upgrade their fields in conjunction with Logan City Council and also some state government funds. We invested $92,000 in refurbishing the tennis courts at Beenleigh Tennis Centre. The result of that is that now Tennis Queensland has put a proposal together to turn the Beenleigh Tennis Centre into a regional tennis centre. And, had we been successful at the last election, there was a $5 million commitment from us to bring that to fruition. These commitments have had a significant and positive impact on many of the residents and sporting communities across the electorate. I'll continue to advocate for those key projects across our community in this term of parliament.
In particular, I'd like to bring to the attention of the House the work that needs to be done on Exit 38 at Yatala. This is an exit that services one of the largest employment centres on the northern Gold Coast. That is still rapidly growing. Some mornings we will have a tailback of traffic from that exit of more than a kilometre on the M1 in an 110 kilometre an hour zone. I'm pleased to say that during the election campaign we made a commitment, if we got re-elected, of $55 million towards upgrading that exit, as we are doing already with Exit 41; the smaller project on Exit 45; and Exit 49, which will commence later this year. That builds on the successful upgrade that we achieved several years ago to Exit 54 at Upper Coomera.
I call on the government—and I've already written to the Prime Minister in this context—to match that $55 million of funding that we committed to get this project off the ground. It is critical to the safety of motorists on the M1, it is critical to allowing people to get to work safely and get home safely, and it is critical to the freight task that is now the major component of the Yatala Enterprise Area, which straddles both sides of the M1 on the northern Gold Coast. It is also important because—I had a meeting with a company earlier this week who are building a new factory out at Yatala, relocating from Hemmant in Brisbane. I'm also aware that Visy is talking about building a new glass bottling plant. So the call on this infrastructure is not going to get any less; it's only going to get greater, and that's before we start talking about the residential development that's going on on the northern Gold Coast.
In addition to that, there is still plenty of capacity for upgrades to our sporting and community facilities. As I've touched on already, Tennis Queensland has proposed a regional tennis hub in Beenleigh. But we also have upgrades to facilities like Beenleigh's Hammel Park, the home of our local netball clubs—well, the home of one of our local netball clubs—baseball and rugby league. We look at projects such as the upgrade to the clubhouse for a Ormeau FC, a rapidly growing small football club in the northern part of the Gold Coast. These are projects—and there are many others—that I will continue to fight for, for my community, over this coming term of government.
As we go into this new term of government, I hear much said and made about the issue of a changing climate. Now, I have no issue with the argument that our climate is changing and that we need to take responsibility for looking after our environment, to leave a better environment for future generations of this country. I will say, however, that I disagree with some of the methods of going about it and some of the commentary that's been made. I want to take issue with some of the commentary about the flooding that has occurred in my patch over the last little while. Can I say that worse floods have occurred in my area historically. One that I remember particularly well was in 1974, given how close to getting flooded our house was at that time. But what I find immensely frustrating and immensely disappointing is that, despite the relatively recent nature of that flood, within the living memory of many people in my community in the city of Logan, we have seen successive councils continue to allow houses to be built on flood plains.
If we are serious about dealing with the impacts of a change in climate in a practical sense, we have to seriously look at our planning schemes and our approval processes to ensure that we don't continue to build houses in the path of potential floodwaters. The same happened in Townsville with the floods in 2017. Areas that were flooded when I lived in Townsville in 1998 have had brand new housing estates built on them. It is the height of irresponsibility for us to be building properties in those areas.
The second part of that is to ensure that our infrastructure is properly designed to ensure we minimise the impact of flooding events to upstream communities. Part of that is the design of our bridges. In many instances, we build our bridges from riverbank to riverbank. We don't build them across the flood plain, and the consequence of that is that, in a flood, they act as a dam and push water back upstream. You end up getting flooding further upstream in houses that maybe didn't flood in the past when you had different infrastructure.
They are simple, practical measures that we can start to undertake now to reduce the impact of flood events. Will we reduce it entirely? No, we won't, but it is a good and positive start. I'm pleased to say that the previous government started to look at this stuff.
In this, my first speech to parliament, I would like to start with: Dhawura nguna, dhawura Ngoonawal. Yanggu Ngalamanyin Dhunimanyin. Ngoonawalwari Dhawurawari Dindi Wanggiralidjinyin. This is Ngunnawal country. Today we are all meeting together on Ngunnawal country. We acknowledge and pay our respects to the elders. To my local Kaurna brothers and sisters who may be watching today from the Adelaide Plains: Nina Marni.
I'm proud to be standing here today as part of a Labor government that will deliver the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full—voice, treaty, truth for our First Nations peoples. This is a crucial and meaningful step for our nation towards healing wounds that have been left open for far too long.
Former President of the United States of America Barack Obama said:
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.
These words ring true, ahead of the single most important referendum since 1967. As representatives across the country, we have a duty to ensure the voices of our First Nations people are heard, delivering a result that respects the rights and the dignity of our First Peoples. The Indigenous tie I wear today is aptly named 'be the voice'. I will be a voice for the change we seek.
On reflection, from the House of Reps induction, I'm drawn to the detail mentioned by the former Speaker, the member for Fisher. The class of 2022 brings the number of elected members as representatives of our communities to 1,240 since Federation. I feel very fortunate to have this rare opportunity to influence the direction of change for our community and country. It is something I will reflect on every day.
I wish to congratulate my colleagues on all sides of the chamber for their success at the election, especially the other 34 new members. We have an obligation to serve with dignity and respect, displaying the leadership qualities expected of those elected to office. And, in reflecting on that fact, I want to affirm that every person has a right to feel safe and valued in the workplace, including all people for whom this is a workplace. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to unacceptable behaviour. We must set the standard. It is not a right to be here, it is an honour bestowed on us by the people. It is our duty to improve standards across society through the considered decisions we make every day in this place.
I wish to acknowledge His Excellency the Governor-General and commend him on a powerful opening to parliament and a distinguished contribution to our democracy. I congratulate the Speaker of the House on your appointment and I wish you all the best in the role. To the voters of Spence: thank you—thank you for placing your trust in me to be your representative in parliament; it is truly humbling. I will work hard every day to deliver for our community. To the hundreds of volunteers that gave up their time during the campaign: you make the impossible possible. Thank you for your generosity. To my dedicated campaign team—Matthew Marozzi, Chelsea Bishop, Ruben Bala and Caleb Flight—thank you for keeping me focused and on track. To my wonderful staff—Matthew Werfel, Nymfa Farrell, Alex Pados, Scott Johnstone, Louise Drummond and Alex Coates—thank you for ensuring our electorate office is open for business and running smoothly, enabling us to meet the expectations of all in our community.
I am a proud member of the Australian Labor Party, a party that stands and delivers change for the betterment of all. We are staunch in our pursuit of fairness, equality and social inclusion. We strive every day to enhance the wellbeing of our communities. To the state Labor secretary, Aemon Burke; his predecessor, Reggie Martin MLC; and the broader party membership: thank you for your friendship, guidance and support over many years. To my great mate, TWU branch secretary Ian Smith: thank you for the opportunity to represent the road transport industry for the last six years as an organiser; I am grateful that you took a punt on me. We have enjoyed a great friendship forged from hard work and mutual dedication to advancing the cause of fairness for working people. You have been a fantastic mentor, and I thank you for your guidance. To Michael Kaine, Nick McIntosh, Richard Olsen, Tim Dawson, Mike McNess and your teams around the country: thank you for your support and encouragement over many years. To Josh Peak, Sonia Romeo and the team at the SDA: thank you. It has been a rewarding journey working alongside your union. To Brett Larkin, Campbell Duignan, Jamie Newlyn, Christy Caine, Paddy Crumlin and all the MUA rank and file: thank you. You have been fantastic mentors during my formative years within the trade union movement. I am grateful for your support during my almost 10-year career at sea as a seafarer, delegate and advocate for workplace safety.
To the AWU and broader union movement: thank you. A little over 12 months ago, I approached a very close mentor and confidante for advice around pursuing preselection and life as a parliamentarian. Former Senator Alex Gallacher, unfortunately, is no longer with us. He was a fierce advocate for the preservation of superannuation and the improvement of road safety for all. In his absence, I would like to thank his wife, Paola, for allowing me the time to seek his counsel on a regular basis; I hope to meet the expectations he set out for me in those formative discussions. I would like to thank Senator Don Farrell; the member for Kingston, Amanda Rishworth; and Senator Marielle Smith for their time and support during my campaign and since. I look forward to working with you all over the coming years.
I grew up in Mildura, in the surrounds of Sunraysia. Born to my parents, Julie and Glen, my life started out on the dark clay soils of the Murray River junction town of Curlwaa, on 45 acres of citrus and vegetables. Dad was a farmer. Mum, a nurse, was our carer, and raised me and two younger sisters, Georgina and Kristina. Our house was small and modest, a 10-by-10 fibro farmhouse. It was our home—a home I remember fondly to this day. My parents were involved in all aspects of our community: the tennis club, the Country Women's Association and the Country Fire Service, to name a few. Community was a way of life, where everyone looked out for each other in the district. This sense of community and service was something encouraged in us by our parents, and I always felt supported in my pursuit of life—although, upon telling my mother that I'd enlisted into the Army Reserve with the 8/7th Royal Victoria Regiment, I think that support may have wavered as only a mother's care can for the safety of a child.
To my mum, Julie, and sisters Georgina and Kristina, thank you. I thank you for your support, especially since the loss of my best mate with dad's passing in 2017. I know if he were still here with us, he would have been so proud.
Honourable members: Hear, hear!
To my amazing wife, Cassandra, I wish you could have been here today. I feel I've waited a lifetime to find you, or for you to find me. You are my lodestar. You keep me grounded, and I will be forever grateful for your selflessness in supporting me—thank you. To my predecessor, the Hon. Nick Champion, with over 15 years dedicated to this place and the people of Spence—formerly Wakefield, you helped to shape and deliver lasting outcomes for our community. I thank you for your contribution, friendship, wise counsel and enlightened wit. I wish you all the best in your endeavours within the South Australian parliament as part of the Malinauskas Labor government, and look forward to working alongside you within our respective electorates for many years to come.
The division of Spence was named in honour of Catherine Helen Spence, a formidable pioneer of the women's suffrage movement, an advocate for electoral reform and a champion for women's representation in parliament during the late 1800s. Spence is a diverse electorate, stretching from St Kilda on the Gulf St Vincent across the Adelaide plains to Gawler, from the hills of Humbug Scrub in the Mt Lofty Ranges and across the flat to Angle Vale. It takes in the Salisbury, Playford, Gawler, Light Regional and the Barossa councils. It's home to one of the most culturally diverse communities across Australia. Historically known for agriculture, manufacturing and defence, it is home to RAAF Base Edinburgh, which plays a significant role in our homeland defence and operations abroad. I thank all our current and former defence personnel for their service.
Spence is also well known for developing some of the AFL's greatest players, home to names like O'Loughlin, Wanganeen, Bond, Burgoyne and Warrior, to name a few. We are home to iconic South Australian brands such as SAFCOL, Bickfords and RM Williams. Winaityinaityi Pangkara, the country of the birds, is the acclaimed Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary National Park. It starts at the beaches of St Kilda, running north along the coast for 60 kilometres, and forms part of the East Asian-Australasian flyway, a significant flight route for migratory birds across the world, part of a diverse ecosystem in the area and tourist destination for avid birdwatchers the world over.
The suburb of Elizabeth, named in honour of the Queen, was the centre of a significant population expansion in the mid-1900s, welcoming migrants, particularly from the United Kingdom, to help expand our manufacturing capabilities within South Australia. Now, our electorate welcomes migrants from around the world to be part of building our future. We are a place of opportunity.
I'm extremely fortunate to have enjoyed opportunity throughout my life. My parents cared for our education as kids. Foundational literacy and numeracy were fundamental basics that our parents instilled in us. For many years, I took these skills for granted. My work has exposed me to the realisation that there are high levels of illiteracy in the workforce and the community. Unfortunately, for far too many, this fails to be recognised or addressed until far too late in the learning cycle.
When we fail to invest strongly in early education, we run the risk of missing out on the next David Unaipon or Dame Roma Mitchell. It is a risk that could compromise our ability as a people to solve the greatest challenge of our future. More than that, failure to invest appropriately in public education is an abrogation of our responsibility to honour every young person's fundamental right to a good education. This is why I believe in the need to ensure every child in this country receives the best quality education and is supported to reach their full potential in life.
From early childhood to higher learning, education is a gateway that opens us up to inclusive social experiences and better health outcomes, and gives us the capacity to adapt to an everchanging global environment. It sets us up for success throughout life. Crucially, an educated workforce forms the foundation of a strong and successful economy.
I am a proud trade unionist, unashamedly proud. And to each and every worker: value your union and its membership as you would your passport. It is your ticket to good, secure, well-paid work. It opens you to the possibility of travel and so much more. As a member of the MUA and TWU, a former delegate and senior organiser, I have witnessed the exploitation of workers. Profit is put before people and wage theft is often the norm not the exception.
I have seen the collapse of our Australian merchant shipping fleet, forcing thousands of highly skilled seafarers onto dry land. We have 12 Aussie flagged ships left on our coast. It is a national disgrace that we have left ourselves so compromised, unable to respond in times of crisis. Our merchant navy has played vital roles in numerous conflicts, none more so than World War II, ensuring our armed forces were supplied with munitions, helped with the injured and refused to ship pig iron to the enemy.
I have watched the tsunami-like surge of the gig economy leave a trail of destruction in its wake, displacing traditional well-paying jobs for systems where the lowest bidder wins the work. It has caused a fast-paced dash towards insecure work, cost-cutting and avoidance of safety practices in the workplace. It has allowed the opportunity for the employer to turn off your ability to earn altogether, with a simple keystroke.
The Amazon effect is forcing good companies with gold-standard agreements to the wall, in a war they just can't win. It is why we need a tribunal to set minimum rates and standards to protect both employees and employers, ensuring our roads are safe, our skies are safe and, above all, our people are safe. I cannot be any clearer when I see this: safe rates save lives.
There are many in the gallery today who have sat beside me at a negotiation table or opposite. I am unapologetic for being a fierce advocate in demanding fair outcomes for workers. We need to adopt an approach where our workforce is seen as an asset and not a liability, where loyalty in both directions is rewarded, where the success for one is a success for the other. Fostering good workplace relationships with unions, workers and employers alike will lead to higher levels of productivity in the workplace, in turn, delivering better outcomes for all.
Industries, governments and the community must work together more effectively in another critically important area—that is, the protection and preservation of the planet we share. We have all been witness to the tragic events over the last few years, from bushfires to flooding. It is clear we have a climate emergency. The only viable option for the future of humanity is to ensure we can sustain life here on earth. We owe it to ourselves, to our children and to future generations to leave the world not only habitable but thriving. The transition to a clean energy market is an exciting one. It will create new jobs and opportunities for our nation. By embracing change now, we can ensure prosperity for our country to become market leaders not market followers.
We must also work to secure our food production. As a farmer's son, it was clear our seasons were changing two or more decades ago. Water restrictions, brought on by lengthened periods of drought and upstream influences on water flow, affect the livelihoods of all who rely on access to secure water supply. Extreme weather events regularly affect crops and compromise the viability of primary production. Through sustainable, regenerative farming practices, we can ensure better yields by conserving the quality of our topsoils, using less water for our crops and limiting pesticides and herbicides.
We must find new ways of packaging and distributing food and limiting its waste, providing safe, affordable, high-quality nutrition to Australia and the world. It is time to embrace the circular economy fully and find ways to recycle more products destined for landfill, more products that can be remade into new materials for building houses, roads, furniture and much more. These new materials will help with more efficient buildings, requiring less energy consumption, delivering a new wave of meaningful employment for our next generation of workers, a fair go for all, and ensuring opportunity for everyone.
Strengthening our communities is the Australian way. We have a moment in time, a moment when we must be bold and push the boundaries of the possible to achieve the impossible, where a dream of shooting for the stars becomes a reality, to be a nation that knows no limits and seizes the moment, to lift our people to a new generation of prosperity through the embrace of innovation and investment in the future. Leadership simply must come from government in these matters. With the election of an Albanese Labor government, Australians have given the signal that they are ready for a new chapter. To do my part in exercising the leadership that our community deserves, it will be my honour and privilege to serve the people of Spence and the nation in this the 47th Parliament of Australia. Thank you very much.
I thank the House. Before I call the honourable member for Robertson, I want to remind the House that this is the honourable member's first speech. I ask the House to extend to them the usual courtesies. I give the call to the member for Robertson.
I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we gather today, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, and also those in my electorate of Robertson, the Darkinjung people. I pay my respects to all elders past, all elders present and all elders emerging. What we must recognise is that the land upon which we work, the land upon which we love and the land upon which we live always was and always will be Aboriginal land. As a proud Wiradjuri man, living on Darkinyung country, to be here today—to have the honour and privilege of speaking in this place, representing my community—is the result of not just an electoral victory but the sacrifice, the courage and the commitment of those that have come before. We have an essential duty to listen to our elders, to hear them and to understand them, so that our light might shine brighter today than it did yesterday. This begins by implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full.
I will start by thanking the hardworking and welcoming people that are the constituents of Robertson. You are the reason that I stand here today, and it is an honour and a privilege to represent you. You are the reason that I will fight with all I have for the Central Coast. From the mighty peninsula, where I grew up in Umina, to the Gosford CBD, to the leafy suburbs of Empire Bay and Kincumber, to the waters of Davistown and Saratoga, over to Narara and Niagara Park in the north, to the sparkling beaches of Copacabana, Avoca, Terrigal and McMasters, to Kariong on top of the hill and to our more rural areas of Mangrove Mountain and Spencer, this is our place. To our world-class volunteers on the Central Coast—the rural fire service, state emergency service, surf lifesavers and all those that help our community in times of need—your dedication goes above and beyond, and we thank you.
The campaign for Robertson was extraordinary. It was a grassroots movement centred around what matters—the health and wellbeing of others, the protection of our natural world and the accountability of those elected to govern. It was inspiring to see so many people, both in the party and throughout our community, come together to bring about much-needed change. It was and is a time for unity for the Central Coast, where every voice matters.
There were some exceptional people that must be mentioned today. Firstly, my family. To my beautiful partner Shaylee: you inspire me every day to be a better person and a better doctor. Your empathy and compassion have ensured that our journey here has been one of inclusivity and equality. With you by my side, everything is possible and nothing is unachievable.
My father, Bryan Reid, raised in the council flats of Newtown, a nurse, a paramedic and now a small business owner, recognised the importance of education to overcome barriers. His father, Ronald Reid, who is no longer with us, and my beautiful nan, Aunty Robyn Reid, raised a giant of the Central Coast. My mother, Leanne Reid, a successful small business owner, is the most generous person you will ever meet and is the embodiment of selflessness. She was raised lovingly by her single mother, Elaine Rowan, who is watching on from her home in Woy Woy tonight.
Mum and Dad, I still remember you walking me to Umina Beach Public School. I still remember you being there when I finished school at Central Coast Grammar. I still remember looking out at the crowd at the University of Newcastle and seeing you there when I became a doctor. There has never been a time in my life when you have not been there for me. When I was growing up, you taught me the importance of people. You showed me and continue to show me how important it is to not leave people behind and to make sure that no-one—no-one—is held back. To my little sister Grace, a powerful, strong Indigenous woman capable of changing the world: Grace, you've always had a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong, and it is because of that you have always made sure that I have remained true and that I have remained focused on why I'm standing here today—people.
To Jo Lloyd, one of the greatest campaign managers anyone could ever ask for, your commitment and your loyalty go above and beyond, and the people of Robertson and myself are so fortunate to have you on our side. To Jesse Corda, from the days we spent doorknocking in the rain, in the blistering heat and sometimes in both, to the thousands of phone calls we made in our tiny campaign office—we did it. Thanks, mate. And to my role models in the Labor community: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese; ministers Jason Clare, Chris Bowen and Ed Husic; assistant minister Emma McBride; Senator Deborah O'Neill and state member for Gosford Liesl Tesch, your support and guidance throughout the campaign have been absolutely invaluable, and I will be forever grateful.
Given we had the backing of such a strong community-led campaign, including our wonderful branches, it would be impossible for me to single out individuals, but you know who you are. The community gave so much to our campaign, and I owe each and every one of you an incredible thanks. To all those sitting in the gallery, and those watching on from home, thank you for not only making this journey with me, but for every moment of your unwavering support. I want to recognise the previous member for Robertson for her commitment to our community, and I wish her and her family well for the future.
Health is not simply a state of being free from illness or injury. Health is the strength of a society and a community. Health is a community having access to affordable and equitable care and services. Health is having the freedom to go about our daily lives with the reassurance that those elected to represent us are held to account. Health is having a strong, clean, protected and sustainable environment. Health is having a sense of belonging through cultural acceptance and representation. Health is having the ability to participate in the workforce all while knowing your children are being cared for and educated to the absolute highest standard. Health is having a safe and secure place to call home.
The health of our nation and, indeed, the Central Coast is front and centre to what we must achieve. I am so honoured to be part of a government that will change lives for the better. I have been particularly fortunate to serve my community through our health service, in particular, in our emergency departments. To work alongside great doctors like Dr Matthew Ingram, Dr Matthew Knox and Dr Liam Clifford and provide care for our most vulnerable truly is a privilege.
Our hospitals are a place where it does not matter who you are, where you come from, or the circumstances leading to your presentation. You will be cared for and you will be cared for for free due to the hard-fought Labor initiative that saw a little, green card come into the lives of all Australians. A little, green card with the word that represents complete and universal access—Medicare. A place where the lights are always on. A place where you'll be met by some of the world's most highly trained nurses, doctors and support staff. A place where people do not expect to be and it often is the worst day in someone's life.
The shift I will now describe was not that dissimilar to many others that had come before it. But it was the turning point and why I stand before you today. I stand removing my PPE and washing my hands after seeing a patient, and then I hear the sound of the bat phone, a high-pitched shrill piercing the already noisy environment. The sound of that phone, the pre-arrival notification of a critically unwell patient, commands the attention of everyone in the room.
Over the loudspeaker—'bat call'. And so it begins. The team assembles in the resus. bay and roles are assigned: airway, breathing, circulation, drugs. We stand ready in full PPE to try and shield us from COVID-19, with a face mask essentially suctioned to our faces, eye protection and a face shield, and a long, splash-resistant gown with gloves. You feel the sweat running down your face and your neck, but you have no time to sit and no time to rest. The room must be prepared for the incoming patient.
And then you hear it. You hear the sirens. The ambulance drives up to the resus bay, having to slow down because of the many other ambulances that are ramped and filled with unwell patients. The doors to the resus bay open, and paramedics are doing chest compressions and rescue breaths on the 55-year-old male that was found unresponsive on the floor of his home by his wife and young children.
A cardiac arrest protocol begins in order to save the man's life. In the time that this happens, his wife arrives and is understandably distraught. Just under 20 metres away, in the waiting room, more patients present within minutes of each other—one with a stroke, another with a heart attack and many who are unable to afford or unable to see a GP in a timely manner. This is on top of a waiting room and a subacute area that only have standing room remaining and an acute section without any beds. The corridors of that waiting room are filled not only with medically unwell patients but also with those fleeing domestic violence, those at risk of homelessness and those who just have nowhere else to go.
Back in resus, return of spontaneous circulation has occurred, and his heart is now beating properly again. This patient needs to be transferred to the intensive care unit for critical care, but there are no beds. The stroke and the heart attack need immediate attention, but there are no beds—no beds and not enough staff.
While all of this is occurring, others come through the door: the five-month-old child with a femoral fracture as a result of domestic violence; the 17-year-old in crisis due to a deterioration of their mental health; and the 80-year-old presenting unwell—someone's mother—and yours will be the last hand they ever hold. The people that come through the door on their feet, in a chair or in the arms of a loved one all know one thing: that we will be there for them.
The emergency department, however, can surprise you. It can be a place of love and a place of new life: the healthy baby boy born in the resus bay; that Saturday sporting injury that, after an X-ray, turned out not to be a fracture; and the child presenting in the middle of the night as unwell, who just needed an ice block, some medicine and lots of hugs from mum and dad.
Shifts like this formed a turning point for me. I stand before you today not because I no longer want to be a doctor—I love being a doctor, and I will always love being a doctor—but because, by undertaking this most important role, my skills and my experience will no longer be limited to the bedside. At the bedside, I have the opportunity to help one family at a time. Here, in this place, I have the opportunity to be part of something that can change the lives of everyone in our community for the better. I have the opportunity to use my experiences to bring about informed systemic change.
When people come through the doors of the hospital, they put their absolute trust in those caring for them. They know that you will do your absolute best for them against all odds. The decisions that you make will make a difference in their life and for their life. And that is what I want to help bring to this place. The public must be able to trust us. We have been given an incredible honour of representing our communities, and the people need to know, and need the guarantee, that they can trust us to do the right thing.
I will fight day and night to ensure that those in power—every person in this place, including myself—are held to account, because the health of our nation depends on it. A healthy democracy has at its core accountability, and I see it as my responsibility—in fact, our responsibility—to ensure that we safeguard and protect it for future generations.
Our government developing the nation's first independent anti-corruption commission is one of the missing pieces of the puzzle in restoring the community's faith and trust in their elected representatives. Our future generations should be at the heart of every decision we make. Without them, we are nothing, and this great Australian story ceases to exist. Therefore, we must provide them with an environment, with a planet where they can continue to grow, to love and to become whoever they want to be.
In the afternoon, with the sun setting and an orange glow filling the sky, if you look out from Umina Beach, you will see a small island, Lion Island, and on it a colony of penguins. Surrounding it and the remaining coast are rolling waves and rolling ocean teeming with marine life. It is truly something beautiful to behold.
The scene I describe is not that dissimilar to many parts of Australia, although the peninsula is truly one of the greatest places on the face of this earth, but it places front and centre what we must do—protect, preserve and nurture. I want to see a world where our policy brings people and business into the future and where Australia becomes an environmental and climate superpower benefiting us all. To improve the health of our climate and environment is what my father would describe as a generational project. We must leave things better and stronger for future generations—for our family.
Many families across this country and across my electorate, own and operate small businesses, which are the backbone of this nation. To have a small business is not to just have holidays when you want or to have an easy life, like some people believe. It is to risk everything because you want to aspire to something better, to provide for your family, and to have the capacity and ability to provide local jobs for local people. That is small business, and Labor supports it.
For myself, family is everything, as is my community. Part of that story is my nan, Aunty Robyn Reid, an incredible Aboriginal elder and leader. Nan has spent every waking moment being part of and supporting the local Aboriginal community on the Central Coast, and I am so proud to be a part of that. One of seven children, she spent her childhood in what was inhumanely branded 'the camps'. Nan grew up where severe abuse and poverty were the norm. The threat of not sleeping or of not living somewhere safe and secure was real. The threat of not eating was real. But she was able to escape this cycle with social housing—in Newtown, in fact.
The provision of social housing, which my nan refers to, to this day, as a blessing, was a pivotal opportunity in her life—an opportunity that gave her safety, security and support to strive for something even bigger. With her perseverance and incredible resilience, she was able to go on to be the first person in her family to own her own home.
My nan loves being able to use her story to help support and inspire members of our local Aboriginal community and let them know that, if they are struggling, they have the whole community behind them supporting them. I am so proud of my Aboriginal heritage and couldn't be prouder of the incredible role that my nan plays in our local community as a strong female Indigenous elder.
Every person deserves the right to have a secure roof over their head, and I will endeavour to ensure that those sitting in the emergency department waiting room, those on our streets and those at risk of homelessness have just that. A nation's health depends on its ability to care for its most vulnerable, and Labor's housing vision is part of the therapy that's needed to resuscitate our social and affordable housing right across the country.
Our movement, the Labor movement, has always been one of opportunity and access. Whether it be the health of our loved ones, the education of our people, the acknowledgement of the past, housing our most vulnerable, making sure employment becomes more secure, or the expansion and modernisation of our economy, our movement is one that has and will continue to improve the lives of all Australians.
These are the pillars of the Labor Party, and they are the foundations of our society and they are who I am. As your member for Robertson, I will work to protect our most vulnerable, to grow our region and to unite our community, because together we are healthier, together we are better, and together we are stronger.
I would ask those members leaving the chamber to do so, particularly those at the back of the chamber. The member for Wills, either take a seat or leave the chamber. Before I call the honourable member for Wentworth, I remind the House that this is the honourable member's first speech and I ask the House to extend to them the usual courtesies. I call the member for Wentworth.
Wentworth, thank you for electing me to this place. It is an enormous honour to represent you here. Our community is passionate in its support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, so let me acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, who are the traditional owners of the Canberra area, as well as the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, who are the traditional custodians of Wentworth, and pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging. My community and I are passionate about voice, truth and treaty as embodied in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and it would be my profound honour to contribute to achieving those goals in this parliament.
Every story starts with family. Some in this room knew my mother, Carla Zampatti. Many of you knew her designs. If she were still alive today, she would be delighted to see so many women in the House and that so many of them have worn her clothes in the last week. Thank you, all. She was an Italian immigrant. Her father left his pregnant wife in Europe to come to Australia to seek a better life. He was interned as an enemy alien during the war. My mother didn't meet her father until 1950, when she walked off the docks in Fremantle. Mum didn't speak English when she arrived. She left school at 14. She started her business in her 20s, when women didn't really run businesses. She got divorced when she had a nine-month-old baby and had to restart her business when women still didn't really run businesses and weren't really single mums. She was a champion of women, migrants and the arts.
For me, Mum's life represents the Australian dream. She taught me many things. She gave me her migrant values. She made sure my siblings and I knew that we had to earn our place in the world through hard work and never taking anything for granted. She showed me that, it doesn't matter where you come from, everyone can make an enormous contribution and that social mobility, the freedom to become, is the best thing about this country. She told me that as a woman I should and could do anything I wanted and not to feel guilty about it.
Then there's my father, John Spender, who so wished he could be here today. He was a member of this Australian parliament, as his father was. From Dad I received a passionate interest in ideas, learning and understanding how the world is governed and the high honour and responsibility of public service. He taught me to think independently, even if it makes you unpopular. He took that from his father, who in turn also served in parliament. He was Sir Percy Spender. He was the son of a locksmith and he was significantly responsible for both the Colombo Plan, Australia's first turn to Asia, and the ANZUS treaty, Australia's most enduring alliance. He stood for the future, not the past. Many claim him as a party man and as a Liberal Party leading light—and he was—but his first loyalty was to what is right. He first stood for parliament as a sort of Independent in the seat of Warringah. He stood against the defence minister of the day because he disagreed with the defence policy and he decided that the best way to change it was to stand up—and he won the seat. And he continued to stand against his party when he felt that the party was in conflict with the national interest. I speak of him because of what he means to me but also because of what his example means to this House.
In the gallery are my siblings—my brother, Alex, and my sister, Bianca. I love debating Alex, and if he was in this parliament he would be firmly over there on those benches. And Bianca is simply the most wonderful sister anyone could have. Finally is my family that we created: Mark, my husband, who loves me better when my hair is frizzy and I don't have any make-up on, who gives me great advice even when I ignore it, and my wonderful children, Arietta, Octavia and Rafferty. I am eternally grateful for your love and care. I'm here because I want your future to be better for the choices made here in this chamber.
My family values have had a significant influence on my career. I started working in my family business at the age of 10. I'm sorry, Minister Burke; this is just how family businesses operate! I only truly left it when I stood for this election. I love the dynamism and freedom that comes from business, how you can find new ways of solving problems. But my passions have always been greater than business. That is why I first studied economics—because I wanted to understand how public policy works and how it impacts on the lives of people. It's why I worked in the UK Treasury, where I felt that government policy was so far away from the people it was meant to help, and then in the UK public teaching hospital, and it is there that I learned and focused on how to improve quality of care without necessarily increasing costs. I've never forgotten those lessons.
My career has taught me how business and social impact can work together to solve big problems, from my time at Sydney Renewable Power Company, from my time in Kenya working with rural farmers and finally to my time at the Australian Business and Community Network, where volunteers from business mentored thousands of kids from low-socioeconomic schools about the world of work. Those kids were like my mum, without a lot of material advantages but with so much to bring to this country if we support them. It was the best job I've ever had. Your family gives you your values, and your career lets you live them. But they're not the reason why I am here. I am here because my community, Wentworth, sent me here to represent their values in parliament. I want to acknowledge those who came before me: Dave Sharma who worked very hard in the community; Kerryn Phelps, a trailblazer female Independent who stood for humane treatment of refugees; and, of course, the former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. These are enormous shoes to fill.
Wentworth is known for its beaches, our harbour, our green spaces, but those images don't actually capture the community of Wentworth. It's the community that makes it so special. Like Todd and Trent who founded the 440 Run Club. It's called that because you have to get up at 4.40 on a Saturday morning to help young people reduce alcohol consumption and improve their mental health. Like Henry, who invented a film that you can put on planes. It's literally like covering them with contact to reduces drag, to reduce fuel consumption, to reduce greenhouse gases and actually to grow local high-tech jobs. Like the wonderful locals at ACON and Waverley council who worked to deliver the new memorial to gay hate crime victims in Marks Park. Like Kitty Clark, the director of the gallery Saint Cloche, who galvanised a local arts community into fundraising thousands for the victims of war in Ukraine. Like the Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku who recently passed and is much missed. He advocated for kindness and compassion out of the world's worst genocide. And finally like Sean, who I met in Bondi one day pushing his daughter on a tricycle. I asked him, 'What do you care about?’ He said: 'I care about the environment. I love the beaches and I want this for my kids. I want a kind society. I want us to treat people well. Finally, I'm a small business owner, and that's the most important thing for me.'
That's Wentworth. We care about the environment. We love the natural world and we carry in our hearts the responsibility to pass it to our children. Our community is kind, compassionate and inclusive. We voted for marriage equality in overwhelming numbers. We are passionate advocates for refugees. We have Australia's largest Jewish community and many treasured Holocaust survivors in that community. Many of us came to Australia to seek a better life. We are entrepreneurial, we are innovative and we are businesslike. We work across technology, in finance, arts, medicine, in caring for others and in teaching. We expect the government to use our money wisely. I want to pay tribute to those people who sent me here. When I first was approached by community members about running I said no, but I couldn't let it go. Saying yes was the hardest decision I have ever made. I have a young family, a job I adored and I used to have an Italian passport. But I said yes because our values were not represented in this parliament. I said yes because I watched with despair the former government go to COP26 with the position that our businesses, our scientists, our community did not support. They did not stand for us, for Wentworth, and I could not stand aside any longer. This was the moment to say we can do better.
Many people ask me if it was hard to stand against my family's liberal tradition. There are those who try to paint me and other Independents gathered here today as radical. I said to them protecting our environment for our children is not a radical choice. Ensuring that our businesses are at the forefront of innovation is not a radical choice. Making sure that our institutions have integrity, transparency and accountability is not a radical choice, and having equal representation of women and men in public life is not a radical choice. We are the values of modern Australia, and to truly stand up for them requires unprecedented community action, and I want to pay tribute to those who contributed to it. Our first event, when hundreds of people came together at Paddington RSL on a typically rainy Saturday, was the first taste of the commitment our community was willing to make to change, and the community grew from there. At first, people took a brochure. They may have worn a cap. They put a dog bandana on their puppy. They wore a T-shirt. Then they found themselves dropping off leaflets, standing on street corners, talking to their neighbours about politics when they have never done that before. Then they were making a line of signs, one kilometre long, waving to the people of Wentworth as they drove to the city. How did it happen? It happened because good people stood up and lived the words that we need to be the change we want to see in the world.
Thank you to those who approached me and those who supported me, particularly—this is a long list and I know I'm going to forget someone—Lyndell, Anthony, Daniel, Maria, Michaels, Davids, Alexa, Ed, Kath, Sarah, Traceys, Alex, Ruby, Max, Charlotte, Joe, Fred, Kerry, Margots, Andrews, Ians, Sigrid, Louise, JulieAnne, Jillian, Tim, John, Wendys, Ken, Jonathan, Nick, Desiree—I promise haven't just taken a baby list!—Heather, Ella, Peter, Margriet, Martin, Sally, Steve, Annettes, Catherine, Karen, Daniella, Ramazan, Eliana, Jack, Lynn, Marianne, Matthew, Michelle, Mike, Pam, Patricia. Thank you. You were wonderful!
Thank you to my wonderful friends and family who supported me in this choice, and thank you to the thousands of people who supported, volunteered and donated. You are the change that created this. I'm the vehicle of the ambitions of our community to have a voice that truly represents our community in parliament. My first loyalty is to the people of Wentworth, to represent you and your values, not a party. But I know that Wentworth wants me to focus on the best interests of Australia as well, as these people care for the whole country and not just our own patch. For our times are not easy, and it is the values of Wentworth and all the Australian people that are needed now.
We have so much to be thankful for. We are the most successful multicultural country on this earth. We have the longest continuous civilisation on this earth. We have abundant resources. We are educated. We are healthy. The Australian dream is still meaningful here. And we are irreverent. And yet we face significant challenges. There are global challenges: climate change, Ukraine war, shifting global power dynamics, the pandemic. There are local challenges: low productivity, inflation, cost of living, mental health, government debt, a world where young people's real wages are going backwards and housing is out of their reach. And there are challenges to our own values. How do we humanely treat refugees and asylum seekers? How do we achieve a makarrata to truly bring reconciliation to our country? How do we bring respect, safety and equality to all women? And how do we support and include all Australians in our future?
I will stand with Wentworth for the future of this country, not the past. I will stand with Wentworth for strong climate action in this decade and beyond, for a more ambitious climate change action than the government has put forward—one that is informed by the science and works collaboratively with business, unions, community and government to achieve; one that underpins our national security through a reduction of foreign oil. I will stand with Wentworth for investing in our democracy and in this parliament. That means a strong federal ICAC, that means support for ABC and SBS, that means donation reform and that means an end to pork-barrelling. But it also means challenging this parliament to behave better, because we do not behave like this in our living rooms, in our workplaces. I am yet to meet a member of the public who thinks the pointscoring football match of question time is actually helping our country be governed better.
I will stand with Wentworth for a future focused economy. We need to listen to business about migration, about getting the skills we need into this country. We need to listen about innovation; we need to listen about how to help Australia lead R&D, not lag; and we need to listen to businesses about regulation. We absolutely must protect our workers and the environment, but we need to do this in a way that still allows business to focus on its customers, its suppliers and its people, not to be tied up in government complexity and red tape. I will stand with Wentworth for the tough decisions in government for the long term.
My mum almost went out of business in the late eighties, and she taught me that spending more money doesn't always equal better. But both sides of politics so often signal their commitment to issues with dollar signs. In business, if you spend more money and you don't get results, your budget gets cut. We are spending more money in education and in health, and we are going backwards. We must engage with the states in the harder task of reform. We must always remember that this isn't our money. We are taking it out of the pockets of families that need it. And they need it now more than ever.
We have a tax system that holds us back, stamp duty that imposes costs on housing, a payroll tax that is a tax on working—a tax system that doesn't drive productivity. It's not fit for purpose. The economists know it. The business community knows it. The social sector knows it. But neither party wants to deal with the real challenges that we face there. And we must face those hard questions.
I will stand with Wentworth for young people, because all the generations of Wentworth are concerned that homeownership for young people is slipping out of reach. The hard choices of increasing housing supply and reforming stamp duty must be addressed. I will stand for education and for truly preparing young people for the future.
I will stand with Wentworth for bringing the kindness and compassion that we show in our private lives back into parliament in how we treat our most vulnerable—in how we treat our refugees and asylum seekers.
And, finally, I will stand with Wentworth for women. I am the daughter of a female trailblazer. I am a feminist. I am the mother of girls. And, if nothing else, I am one piece of a transformational change in the balance of this parliament.
I pay tribute to the others that are part of this incredible wave of change—the women and multicultural people who have come into this parliament and made it the closest that the Australian parliament has ever had to true representation. I pay tribute to my fellow Independents, those in the parliament now but also those in the past; the brave women who have said: 'Enough is enough in stale old politics.' It will be my lifelong honour to stand in the class of 2022 with you all and seek the change that our communities sent us to pursue.
And I will say to the coalition: in 1996, you actually led the parliament in terms of women. Twenty-three per cent of women in the lower house were women in 1996, in the coalition. After this last election, it was 19 per cent. In 25 years, it has never got above 25 per cent.
Women will be represented. We have been polite, we have asked nicely and we have waited. But we've done waiting, and we're going to take what is ours. This crossbench reflects this. Ignore it at your peril.
Let this parliament be the one that ends the politics of waste. I do not want to waste the potential of so many women by not allowing them to work. I do not want to waste the potential of so many young people who are locked out of opportunities in this country. I do not want to waste the economic opportunity of decarbonisation for this country. And I do not want to waste the precious world that we've been given.
I stand in the middle of parliament because this is where the people of our country stand—in the middle. They stand for balance. They stand for difference, but not division. They want us to be builders, not wreckers. They want us to find solutions, not finger-point. You can be pro environment and pro business. You can live in the city and care about the country. You can be economically responsible and compassionate.
I will make mistakes in this parliament—my final, I guess, thing I will confess to you! I will make mistakes in this parliament. No doubt I will disappoint some people. But the one thing I will do is, listen to my community. When I falter, I know you will be there. You will tell me the truth. I feel the weight of responsibility for the woman who came out of the polling booth with tears in her eyes and said to me: 'My daughter had anorexia and couldn't get the care she needed. I voted for you. Make a difference.' I feel the weight of responsibility for 17-year-old Millie, who said: 'I've always wanted to go into politics, but I never saw anyone I wanted to be. But now I have.' I will seek to be worthy of your trust. I will carry you in my heart. Thank you.
Thanks, Deputy Speaker. Since the invasion of this continent, generations of First Nations warriors, organisers and leaders have fought, and continue to fight, to protect their lands, seas, air, people and culture against colonisation. I would like to pay homage to them, in particular the Yuggera and Turrbal peoples, who are the traditional owners of so-called Brisbane and my electorate of Griffith, and the traditional owners of this place, the Ngunnawal people.
As with so many issues in this place, there is often a deep hypocrisy when it comes to the way some politicians talk about First Nations people. How often are we told that governments support the rights of First Nations people but then fail to introduce the 339 recommendations of the Aboriginal deaths in custody royal commission, over 30 years after they were handed down? Or allow coal and gas mines to open up on land, often against the express wishes of traditional owners? While billions of dollars of mining revenue flow offshore into the coffers of billionaires, First Nations people too often lack basic health care, housing, education and incomes. Politicians make decisions that destroy First Nations land and then write laws that allow their corporate donors to rob their wealth and put it in the hands of people like Gina Rinehart.
It is abundantly clear to me that billionaires and big corporations run parliament. Indeed, when it comes to representation, I imagine that people like Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart must feel pretty good that sometimes it feels as though 89 per cent of this place ultimately represent their interests. The major parties have proved often willing to accept an enormous human and environmental cost in order to serve the interests of big corporations and billionaires, such is their power over this place. Three million Australians live in poverty, with millions more on the brink, while Australia's richest 200 people just ticked over half a trillion dollars worth of wealth. Our nurses, teachers and doctors are viciously overworked, just to make up for the chronic underfunding of our public hospitals and schools. Meanwhile, the next federal budget will include billions of dollars in subsidies for fossil fuel corporations that just happen to be making record profits.
In the middle of one of the worst housing affordability crises in our history, where single mums are forced to live on the street after massive rent hikes, the big four banks just announced $14 billion in after-tax profit. Close to a million people are on the waiting list for social housing, suffering severe private rental stress or homeless, but 89 per cent of this place would rather support billions of dollars in tax concessions for property investors than even contemplate capping rents or building enough public housing for those who need it.
Eighty-nine per cent of this parliament literally supports spending $224 billion giving every politician and billionaire an extra $9,000 a year in the form of the stage 3 tax cuts. But apparently bringing dental into Medicare is too expensive. Apparently scrapping crippling student debt and making uni and TAFE free is too expensive. Apparently building enough but beautifully designed public housing so everyone has a place to call home costs too much. Apparently raising JobSeeker and the pension above the poverty line so people don't have to live in abject poverty is too expensive. The top 10 per cent of Australians now hold over half the total wealth in this country, but apparently that 10 per cent need a massive tax cut. Truly, one of life's great mysteries is why people don't like politicians!
One of the worst things about Australian politics is the way it works to make some of the greatest injustices and outrages seem perfectly normal and reasonable. Like a sedative it dulls the senses, and it relies on a certain logic. What is considered possible isn't determined by what actually is possible with the resources our country has to hand, but instead the major parties, media and various public and private institutions work to constrain the scope of political debate into an ever-narrowing band—one determined not by what everyday people want, need or believe, but by the interests of the billionaires and multinational corporations that parliament ultimately serves.
This logic is perhaps best exemplified when it comes to climate change. The consequences of two degrees or more of global warming are so devastating it's actually quite hard to explain, but the recent devastating bushfires, floods, heatwaves, droughts and storms really are only a small preview—massive crop failures, sea level rises displacing hundreds of millions of people, 99 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef lost. A recent study found that in 30 years time my home town of Brisbane could be virtually unliveable in summer for those who can't afford air-conditioning. But over two degrees of warming is exactly what 89 per cent of this place supports. In fact, currently this place supports expanding coal and gas mining and using public money to do it.
Australia is the third-largest exporter of fossil fuels in the world behind, you know, two great countries it's really good to be a part of: Russia and Saudi Arabia—great company. The idea that the moderate position on climate change is 'Use public money to expand coal and gas mining and drive global warming beyond two degrees' only makes sense when you consider that the power holders in parliament are coal and gas corporations, not everyday people. It's like standing in front of a burning house and declaring that the moderate position is 'We only put the fire out in one room while we send someone out back with a can of petrol to pour fuel on the fire.'
The most insulting lie, I think, though, when it comes to climate change, is that Australia needs to expand coal and gas mining to protect workers. That would be more believable if the political establishment didn't also believe that workers should pay more tax than the multinational corporations they work for. But the reality is that over the next 10 years coal and gas corporations will export hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars of our wealth—our wealth. That's more than enough to guarantee the jobs and income of not just every coal and gas worker but ensure every regional mining community becomes a thriving hub of publicly owned manufacturing, renewable energy and new industries, with good hospitals, schools, public facilities and housing.
I would argue the political establishment doesn't give a toss about workers. What they're really worried about is the profits of their donors. The political system is so completely disconnected from the lives of everyday people. In fact, spending only a week in this place has been a stark lesson in how so much of the pomp, ceremony and rules of this place work to deepen and reinforce that disconnection.
Literally this same week that the Business Council was holding a special event in Parliament House with the Prime Minister—we walked past, and it was frankly bizarre—children peacefully calling for action on climate change were dragged out by police. Technically, I should be kicked out of parliament if I don't dress like a businessman, but you're more than welcome to vote for laws that materially benefit corporations that also happen to donate millions of dollars to your political party.
Every member of parliament was forced to pledge allegiance to the British monarch last week. One would think we should be swearing allegiance to the Australian people. Then there was the installing of massive security fences around the once publicly accessible lawns above Parliament House that were specifically designed to represent the democratically accessible nature of this place. As symbols go, I think that was probably a bit on the nose.
The sense that politics and politicians in general are completely disconnected from the lives of everyday people was a sentiment shared by almost everyone I spoke to during this campaign. Over 14 months, I personally knocked on almost 15,000 doors, or thereabouts, and time and again people told me they were fed up with politics. But what also became clear was just how low people's expectations are when it comes to politics.
It is this sense of low expectations which remains one of the political establishment's greatest assets. Deny people hope that things can get substantially better and you take their power, but I've seen the power of collective hope. Indeed, it really is the only reason I'm standing here. Over 14 months, over 1,000 Greens volunteers in Griffith knocked on almost 90,000 doors, hand-delivered hundreds of thousands of letters and flyers and gave up countless, evenings, mornings, rainy arvos and weekends to fight for something greater than themselves. We had tens of thousands of conversations with residents across Griffith where we actually took the time to listen and, often, learn about the issues that people faced in their daily lives. Together we built the single biggest single-seat campaign, I would argue, in the history of Australian politics and helped continue to build a movement inextricably linked to the communities from which it has emerged.
One of the questions I asked repeatedly on the Griffith campaign, borrowed from Bernie Sanders, was: are you willing to fight for someone you don't know as hard as you would fight for yourself? Time and again the answer was yes. We fought for each other not out of a sense of charity but out of a sense of solidarity, of righteous anger and, most importantly, of hope—hope not that we could defy virtually every political and media expert and win in Griffith but that we could collectively build a movement that would fundamentally transform Australian politics in favour of everyday people.
The philosophy of organisation of our movement was perhaps best represented by the response to the Brisbane floods. The floods of this year were a harsh, brutal and unjust symbol of the consequences of a political system stacked in favour of fossil fuel corporations. This apparent one-in-500-year event occurred just 10 years after another one-in-100-year flood—an alarming demonstration of the corporate and political grip on climate change. The slow response from emergency services and government was a consequence of decades of the hollowing out and underfunding of our public services and institutions. The disproportionate number of low-income and middle-income renters and homeowners badly affected by the floods were a reminder that, while this housing crisis is caused by a system treats housing as a commodity first and a home last, climate change will make it worse. But, as in Lismore, where incredible resident self-organisation drove a collective clean-up, in Griffith we proved that, where a broken system fails, ordinary people step in to fill the breach.
Over the course of those weeks, we suspended our campaign and, along with the brilliant member for South Brisbane, Amy MacMahon; Councillor Jonathan Sri; and their brilliant teams and officers, we used our organisational and logistical capacity to coordinate hundreds of volunteers in delivering free food, ice and eskies for those who had lost power. We taxied residents to crucial services. We cleaned up entire neighbourhood blocks, hauling flood damaged furniture, cleaning houses and sometimes just providing a shoulder to cry on. But it wasn't just the floods. We coordinated protests against worsening flight noise pollution, planted community gardens and used the produce to provide free food to those trapped in COVID isolation.
Ultimately, I believe, you build power by acting collectively as a community. If we want to take on the power of billionaires and big corporations then we must build a party and a movement that is capable of improving people's lives outside the cycle of electoral politics.
Of course, when it comes to this movement and, in particular, to our success in Griffith, there are some people who need thanking. To the thousands of volunteers, donors and supporters: I was constantly inspired by your drive, commitment and perseverance. Indeed, in many a dark moment on that campaign, the only thing that got me up in the morning was imagining one of you rocking up with a smile on your face to the fifth door-knock of that weekend, not demonstrating one ounce of fatigue. Frankly, I don't know how they did it. My brilliant campaign team is, I would argue, the best campaign to member country. Liam Flenady, Mel McAuliffe, Nat Baker, Lachlan Morris, Claire Hudson, Louisa Randal, Eva Tolo, Josh Saunders-Mills, James Cummins, Kelsey Waller, Paul Rees, Zoe Lawrence, Heather Bennett, and Hannah Wright.
To Kitty Carra, the often unacknowledged director of the Queensland Greens, who has overseen the most successful period in the history of our party. She both procreated the space for and led many of transformations in the Queensland Greens that have led to so much success.
To Adam Bandt and his chief of staff Damien Lawson: thanks for believing in and supporting our little movement in Queensland years before any other southerner gave us a shot!
Thanks to my parents, Kim and Tim, for giving me many of the principles of right and wrong that I still hold today while providing the space to develop my own politics with guidance and the odd radical book recommendation.
To my partner, Joanna, without whom there's no way I could have survived this campaign: I love you and I can't imagine life without you.
Finally, to the people of Griffith, thank you for your trust not just in me but in our broader Greens' movement. To you I give you this commitment: whether you're struggling to put food on the table or pay the rent, whether you're a refugee in hotel detention in Kangaroo Point or you're facing eviction from your public housing, whether you're fighting against a profit-hungry airport corporation or a dodgy developer, whether you want to help plant a community garden or just fix up your local school, whether you have been abandoned by state authorities as another climate fuelled flood disaster hits your neighbourhood or you are just in need of a friendly chat, we will have your back
Really, at the end of the day what we are fighting for is a future where we everyone has what they need to live a good life. Perhaps the greatest injustice of all is that in such a wealthy country our system denies so many people the chance to fully enjoy their one short life on this earth. Health care; education; housing; a good, well-paying job and a beautiful home are the foundation to do what makes life truly meaningful: time with family and friends, footy in the park, painting a picture, reading a book, a day at the beach, a hike through the wilderness, a beer at the pub. I so strongly believe in a four-day work week with no loss of pay, because it would do so much to give people that most precious of resources: time.
Beyond all the specifics it can sometimes be hard to describe what exactly we mean by a good life. Funnily enough, the great feminist writer Virginia Woolf's writing in A room of one's own, for me, comes close to describing what I mean. Woolf reflects on the instinct for possession; the rage for acquisition, which keeps, 'the stockbroker and the great barrister going indoors to make money and more money and more money when it is a fact that 500 pounds a year will keep one alive in the sunshine'. With that 500 pounds, she wrote, came the freedom to think and write as she pleased.
So often in political debates we reduce people to numbers, but what value do you put on a family no longer having to worry about paying the rent and finally having the money to spend the summer at the beach? What value do you put on an afternoon playing footy in the park with your kids rather than working a sixth day of work? How much human enjoyment, creativity, new loves and friendships are denied by a political and an economic system that too often prioritises the profit of multinational corporations over the happiness of everyday people?
What has given me so much hope is that the vast majority of everyday people across Australia share this vision that we should tax billionaires and big corporations to fund things like dental into Medicare and free child care, and build one million public and affordable homes. It is a view that I believe is shared by the vast majority of people across this country. What's more, it is a truly universal vision.
That a small town in regional Queensland, Biloela, demonstrated a greater level of kindness and solidarity towards refugees than this place has done in decades is a reminder that while the decisions this place makes often impose unimaginable cruelty on people fleeing persecution, war and famine—often created by the foreign policy decisions of our government—those decisions don't reflect the will of the people. After all, what sort of good life is it when our country demonises and mandatorily imprisons our brothers and sisters for the crime of seeking that same good life?
This is why I have so much hope that ultimately we can win, because no matter what the political establishment throws at us, no matter how many times they tell us not to hope for anything better, no matter how me times they try to divide us up, no matter how many millions of corporate dollars they spend trying to stop us, we'll keep fighting, because we recognise that we all have more in common with a refugee in detention than a billionaire like Clive Palmer. We don't fight for self-interest; we fight for each other. And we won't stop until everyone—everyone—has what they need to live a good life, to be alive in the sunshine.
For those watching at home who despair at the state of our world but feel powerless to change it, I understand. After all, how often are we browbeaten and lectured about expecting anything but the bare minimum from politics? Often by self-proclaimed experts. But here's the thing, I've lost count of the number of times political and media experts said we had absolutely no chance of winning Griffith. And the thing is that they were wrong and people like you were right: the cleaners, paramedics, nurses, students, tradies, retirees, refugees. Ordinary, everyday people who fought every day for a better future on the Griffith campaign were right, and the representatives of the political establishment were wrong. Believe me that knowledge terrifies them. So next time an expert or politician tells you that it's unrealistic to expect that in a wealthy country like Australia no-one should go hungry or without a home, know that we were right and they were wrong. Know that when they tell you that tax cuts for billionaires, more coal and gas, and mandatory detention of refugees is the best you can hope for, they were wrong. If the Greens' wins in Brisbane, Ryan and Griffith prove one thing, it is that the only barrier—the only barrier—to change is our capacity to organise campaigns like this around the country. Our collective power terrifies the major parties and corporate donors but it should give you hope, because the Griffith campaign wasn't the end of something but the start. And if our political establishment thinks that this is our movement at our biggest, that somehow this is the best that we can do, then, oh boy, do they have another think coming! We really are just getting started.
So if, like me, you think that we should use $224 billion providing free breakfast in every school so no kid goes hungry rather than dishing out $9,000 to a federal politician; if you think everyone deserves a good home; if you think we shouldn't divide people up by the colour of their skin, gender, sexuality or the way they talk, but rather find common cause with everyone in this country who has been screwed over by the political system; and if you think that tackling climate change is more important than the share price of BHP, then join our movement, because I have seen the power of collective hope and I know what it can achieve. Thank you.
I stand here as a member of the 47th parliament because a majority of people in the Makin electorate once again placed their trust and their faith in me to continue as their representative in the federal parliament. To those people I say thank you; I will continue to do all that I can to live up to your expectations and to be an effective representative for all people in the Makin electorate and beyond. To be a member of federal parliament is indeed a privilege that comes with considerable responsibility. I particularly thank the people who not only voted for me but who personally volunteered their time to campaign for me—again, not just in the election campaign but for years, many of them leading up to this last election. They are what Paul Keating once referred to as the 'true believers'. They worked unselfishly for the election of me and a Labor government—a Labor government with policies and laws built on a belief in justice, fairness and equality for all, and a belief in a society where freedom, democracy and inclusion are not just words but core principles of the Albanese Labor government.
I especially thank the people closest to me in my everyday life who sacrifice so much of their own lives and their time to support me in what I do in this place. I refer particularly to my wife, Vicki, who has always been there for me throughout all of my time in public life—from, indeed, the day we got married—to my children and their families, and to all my other extended family members who, along with my very loyal and very confident office team, share the joys, the stresses and the sacrifices of political life. Politics can be tough and often thankless, and, as so many others—including the colleagues from the 46th parliament who were unsuccessful in the May election—find out, being in politics can in fact do a lot to change who you are as a person.
Australia being part of a global community means that we are directly impacted by so much of what takes place across the world: wars, internal conflicts, extreme weather events or disruption to peace and harmony anywhere in the rest of the world will inevitably have consequences for Australia in the form of trade difficulties and disruptions; import shortages; price increases; humanitarian assistance that is required; and refugee issues and the like.
In a global community, Australia's national interest doesn't stop at our international border. That is why it is so important that from the first day after the 21 May election Prime Minister Albanese and his senior ministers have set out to rebuild Australia's damaged relationships with other countries, including many of our near neighbours who for so long have been neglected. Australia has its own identity and independence, but we do live within a global economy and we are members of an international community that today is confronted with so many difficult issues. Yes, it would be fair to say that the world has always faced difficult issues, some greater and others lesser than the difficulties of today, but, notwithstanding that—whatever those difficulties were—it is the immediate issues that this generation faces that become priorities for our government and for other governments around the world.
Here in Australia and throughout the world the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted normal life as we knew it and exposed our national vulnerabilities. The Australian idiom 'She'll be right, mate' went out the window with COVID. We saw lives lost and many people hospitalised. Jobs were lost, services were cut and global supply chains were derailed. Medical services were stressed—and we heard a brilliant speech about that earlier this evening. Work practices changed. Immigration and travel became chaotic, and the global economy became unstable and insecure. I could go on, and I'm sure members in this place are very familiar with all of the issues that COVID brought about. Indeed, it was an experience I don't think anybody ever forecast or imagined would happen in their own lifetime, where we saw the world turned upside down.
Yet, in response to the COVID pandemic, the Morrison coalition sidelined, ignored and even denied its responsibilities on so many of the matters that were core responsibilities of government. It simply tried to use COVID as an excuse for not being able to get on with the full job of government. In fact, some of the problems that we are confronted with today in Australia arose because of the negligence of the Morrison, Turnbull and Abbott governments. These are pressing issues which the Australian people, however, did not forget about and which influenced their vote on 21 May—issues which resulted in a change of government, which saw people looking for a new and fresh direction, which saw the Australian people put their faith and their trust in a brand new government. There was the Morrison government's indifference to climate change, where the government was completely out of step with global, political, business and community opinion; the human crisis in the aged-care sector, so well exposed by the royal commission and some 20 earlier inquiries; and the neglect of the environment, as revealed by the government's deliberate withholding of the State of the environment report. The Morrison government presided over a failing national health and NDIS system and constantly white-anted Medicare. Then there was its complete botching of the replacement submarine program, where we wasted not only a decade of time but over $5 billion in public funds. It presided over the demise of our skills training and the national TAFE system. It talked the talk but didn't walk the walk in support veterans, then had to be dragged into a royal commission into veterans' suicides. And Mr Morrison presided over a government racked by rorts, incompetence and dishonesty while, not surprisingly, refusing to establish an effective anticorruption commission. These things were all part of the reason why the Australian people looked for change and marked down the previous Morrison government.
There are many other issues raised with me in the course of the election campaign that didn't form part of the Governor-General's address when he gave it last week. The Governor-General highlighted, I believe, most of the commonplace policy areas that this government acknowledges it needs to respond to. But there were indeed many other issues raised with me, which I want to quickly talk about in the time that I have left. I refer to things such as corporate greed; private health cover, where our private health system is beginning to fail the people that are members of that system; environmental degradation, which I referred to briefly earlier on; the public ownership of essential services; a struggling health system; the absence of dental cover in Medicare; restoring public trust and confidence in parliamentarians and the parliamentary process; the energy crisis, which we talk about almost daily; and the release of Julian Assange. In talking on those matters—and I will make much more in-depth remarks about all of them in this 47th Parliament when the appropriate time arises—I simply want to make these brief points.
During the COVID pandemic of the last 2½ years, whilst businesses were closing, Australian people were losing their jobs and families around the country were struggling, we saw corporate businesses making superprofits, profits above and beyond what they had previously made when the economy was supposedly going so well. We saw them also taking handouts from government, to the tune of around $20 billion, perhaps even more, when their own income was increasing. It is a concern when we have an economy where that kind of behaviour is allowed to continue.
I touched on the issue of private health cover. I read, only a couple of weeks ago, about how the private health sector is in crisis. We know that the health system more broadly is in crisis. If people do not have confidence in their private health cover—and they don't, because of the gap payments that they are being forced to pay—that will simply force them into the public system, and that will only put more pressure on the public system, and, in turn, the cycle of a public health system that is struggling to meet its obligations will continue. Indeed, in the last two or three weeks alone, in my office I have had several people come to me and say, 'My private health cover simply doesn't give me the support that I need to be able to get the health support that I need, and so therefore I need to go to the public system or we need to change the rules around the private health system.'
Environmental degradation is something that I have spoken out about in this place from the day I came into this parliament. We had a report that was put on ice by the previous government so it wouldn't be exposed in the lead-up to the last election, and that is unforgivable. I have spoken to environmentalists back in my home state of South Australia, people who know what they are doing and people who have committed their lives to supporting our environment. The environmental degradation that is taking place in Australia and around the world is something that cannot continue. Australia does not have a proud track record of environmental protection, and it is something that I will continue to fight hard for again in this term of government.
I now turn to the issue of public ownership of essential services. It has been exposed time and time again, including throughout the COVID pandemic, that outsourcing essential services means that, when things go wrong, it is the government that has to pick up the pieces, and ultimately the people of Australia pay for that outsourcing. So what might appear to be short-term savings upfront ultimately end up being major costs to the broader community.
Others have spoken about—and I have also raised it on previous occasions—the absence of dental cover in Medicare. It is something that I believe should be included and should have been included from day one. I've said that previously. I would like to ultimately see that as something that we pursue. I understand that you can only do so much, but, one step at a time, we should be heading in that direction.
Again, others have spoken about the need to restore public trust and confidence in our parliamentarians. Labor's commitment to a national integrity commission, I believe, will go a long way towards doing that, but we also need to change the way we behave in this place and some of the practices of this parliament. The public have every right to be critical of what they have seen over recent years. I believe that the reality is that people come into this place with good intentions to do the best they can for the communities that they represent, and we need to work collectively to ensure that this parliament does indeed work for the betterment of the country.
In the last few moments I have left, the last two points I will touch on are the energy crisis and Julian Assange. Australian people simply do not accept that Australia, as one of the world's large exporters of coal and perhaps the largest exporter of gas—I believe that we have now superseded Qatar in being the largest gas exporter in the world—should be paying exorbitant gas prices or that we should have an energy crisis in this country. The reality is these are Australian resources, and I believe that it is possible for those companies that are making huge profits from the gas and coal that is exported to also support the Australian people by ensuring that we have enough supplies in this country at affordable prices. Western Australia did it with their gas reservation policy, and I believe that it is possible for the rest of the country to equally ensure that we are not left without adequate supplies of gas and that we do not face a gas energy crisis. I know that Minister Bowen is working towards whatever can be done and I will support whatever steps he takes. It is a critical issue because energy prices do not only affect households but indeed they affect our competitive advantage in our manufacturing industries and affect every other industry throughout the country.
I also said a moment ago that I will speak briefly about Julian Assange. I have spoken about Julian Assange in this place on other occasions. As the Prime Minister has said, enough is enough. Julian Assange has been detained for long enough. Given that is the case, I will continue to urge for his release and I will continue to advocate for his release. I acknowledge that the Prime Minister has quite rightly said that this is not a matter that he will use a loud speaker to talk about but it is a matter that I believe should come to an end and should come to an end quickly rather than being dragged out even longer. It's something that I believe that the Australian people would expect and it is certainly something that I will be continuing to call for.
In his address to the first session of parliament the Governor-General referred to what I would categorise as 19 different areas of public policy which the Albanese government will address in this term of government. They have been identified by Labor as the issues that we campaigned on in the 2022 election that I believe Australians want us to focus our attention on. They are issues which touch on the lives of the people that we represent. Of course every issue will have to be addressed one step at a time. It is not a matter where any government can walk in and simply, overnight, change the direction of the country. Indeed, I would expect that, even with all the best intentions in the world, there will be other issues that arise in the course of the next two or three years that might also cause some disruption to the plans we have in place.
But Labor went to an election campaign with a very clear set of policies. We went to an election campaign where we articulated the matters that we would try and address in this first parliament. The Prime Minister and the ministers that we now have in this government have already in the first week or so of this parliament introduced some 18 pieces of legislation on critical areas of reform where change is needed. They are not areas of reform where we can just simply put through some minor piece of legislation that is not controversial. They are areas of reform where major change is required, including aged care, climate change, industrial relations, acknowledging the Indigenous people of this land and so on. I thank those ministers because, quite frankly, most of those issues are very long overdue. It is a big job ahead we have in the 47th Parliament, but I have every confidence that, led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, all of those matters will be addressed over the coming two or three years, and the Australian people will get the policies that they voted for.